Local Leadership Fail

Today’s post isn’t about software development, it is about an epic leadership fail I had the honour to live through. As it happened, I had to go shopping several days ago. There is a nice store nearby, I go there all the time, but this time I got into the middle of an unpleasant situation between the cashier ladies and a customer. Actually, they were shouting at each other, and I was standing right in the middle of their little war. As it turned out, the problem was that the customer wanted to - and did - pay with small change. Actually, she had a bag of coins. The customer didn’t like the tone of the cashier ladies, and they didn’t like the bag of coins. The cashiers insisted that the proper way to pay with a large amount of coins is to have them in rolls, which is not true any more.

There are too many fails in this situation, for example

  • although the customer isn’t always right, her money is as good as anybody’s, so take it

  • even if a cashier is underpaid, there is no reason to be primitive. If she doesn’t like working as a cashier, then she should quit and look for another job

  • don’t ruin somebody else’s day (like mine) with your frustration

But somebody was missing, at least for me. Oh right, the shift leader. Actually, I saw him in the store: he was sorting tea boxes about four meters away from the danger zone. There was no way that he didn’t hear anything from the fight, and yet he chose to mind the teas instead. How nice of him, because everybody wants to buy tea on a hot Sunday afternoon.

Actually, what he did is a nice example of bad leadership. Hide when the heat comes and let the employees take it. It is not a surprise that the cashier ladies always complain about him to the customers, including me. This is another interesting “feature” of the store: complaining to the customers. The cashiers don’t respect the shift leader, and the only thing he can do in order to keep up his status quo is to abuse his power and set a schedule for the cashiers they definitely don’t like, and show them who the boss is. Still, it wasn’t him who deserved the fail prize from me: it was his boss, who also happened to be in the store! She was the one who was supposed to tell him: “Get over there, solve the problem and after that, come to my office!”.

Nice little company, I have to admit. But they have to change soon, because the competition is coming and it is coming fast. Another German store is being built right next to this store. They are famous for their great but cheap products, and their customer service. How will they compete with them? Using their very weak leadership skills and attitude? I hardly think so. They’ll certainly fail.

When I was in Germany several years ago, I was in a store of this chain - the new one -, and I had a lot of coins with me. It’s worth spending them abroad because they are kind of useless in Hungary - you cannot exchange coins, only notes. So I paid about 20 euros with a handful of coins. Literally, I had my hand full of change. Nothing happened. They took my money, I got my goods and everybody was happy, end of story.

There are several lessons here:

  • Always be with your team, and help them no matter what

  • Take the heat from the customers, it is part of your job

  • Never abuse your power

  • Don’t give power to those who cannot handle it

And the last one is for myself:

  • Find a new store

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